A student struggles to decide on their future in athletics and academics
THE DECISION A student struggles to decide on their future in athletics and academics

A blessing or a curse

At any given sporting event, it becomes obvious. The Lions’ defensive line squares up against an offensive line boasting athletes twice their size and with excessive talent. 

The basketball team faces off against multiple D1 prospects who are headed to blueblood schools across the country.

It’s clear —one school has recruited the best athletes it can find, while the other is working with its current student body. 

Whether it’s fair or not to recruit students solely for athletic purposes is an age-old argument, but regardless of where one sits on the issue, it’s important to acknowledge that other schools do recruit athletes and St. Mark’s does not. This affects competition in various ways. 

“The game plan is different for a team that recruits versus a team that doesn’t,” head basketball coach Greg Guiler said. “When I schedule teams that I know are actively giving scholarships to kids, I know that I’m putting a team like that on the schedule. We know that we’re playing against a team that will be a lot better than Cistercian or ESD, for example.”

Despite a school’s recruitment efforts, Guiler views them from the same lens he does for every school.

“Our scouting report doesn’t change,” Guiler said. “Our reports will be based on their talent and have nothing to do with whether or not they are recruiting.”

An additional issue that arises from recruiting is the potential mistreatment between different sports. St. Mark’s places a strong emphasis on providing equal treatment among all athletic programs. 

“St. Mark’s is not the type of school that values one sport ahead of other sports,” Guiler said. “And that’s why in a lot of schools, a sport like tennis, for instance, would not be valued because tennis tends to get less attention. But at St. Mark’s, tennis gets just as much support and love from the school as any other sport.”

Despite the potential benefits of recruitment, it is imperative for the school to select students capable of managing the workload. 

“We’re not going to put kids in a position where they’re just going to sink academically, we want them to be able to swim and flourish,” Guiler said. “If a student is not the world’s greatest athlete, he can still have a nice niche here. If you can get the work done academically, then we are not going to create an alternative academic track for you because you’re a good athlete.” 

While athletics have maintained a high level of competitiveness in comparison to other schools, the athletic program has taken a different approach, built around the school’s core values, in regard to athletic success.

“If an athletic program is trying to put numbers on banners, and that’s the main goal in how an athletic program is measured, then adding more talent is going to lead to more victories,” Guiler said. “But the goal of our athletic program is to help boys become men 20 years from now. I don’t think that scholarships really affect our day-to-day approach to coaching and trying to run the best athletic programs. ”

Associate Director of Athletics Joshua Friesen said the school is doing everything it can to field competitive teams while maintaining its integrity.

“Whether that’s academically, athletically, or in fine arts, we’re always trying to bring in the best kids we can,” Friesen said. “We recruit applications, and from that pool, we look to get the most well-rounded kids possible.”

While the school is most known for its academic excellence, prospective students often possess a diverse range of talents in addition to their academic abilities. A student’s unique talent, apart from their academic achievements, will alter the school’s approach in introducing them to the campus. 

“If an applicant is an exceptional student at his school and an excellent athlete, then they might come to us in the athletic department,” Friesen said. “We show them our facilities, introduce them to coaches, and introduce them to kids that play their sports. Hopefully, they’re really strong students, then they’ll apply, and if they get in, we try to make sure they choose to come to St. Mark’s. It’s a multi-level process.”

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